Is it just me, or is there suddenly a fantastic selection of animal activism books out there? I think we’re seeing a very encouraging trend, as writers and publishers both recognize the value in introducing new titles to help activists speak up for animals. When Striking at the Roots was released early last year, there really wasn’t any book like it that I could find ― a current guide to the strategies and tactics individual activists can use to effectively campaign against the countless methods of animal exploitation. In fact, that was the whole motivation behind writing the book; I felt the movement needed a single resource compiling the best practices of animal activists around the world.
What a difference a year makes. Now there are a number of books available, each with its own angle. Here are a dozen titles that have (mostly) been published in the last few years, each one certain to enhance one’s effectiveness when putting compassion into action.
50 Awesome Ways Kids Can Help Animals: Fun and Easy Ways to Be a Kind Kid (2006) by Ingrid Newkirk. Originally published in 1991 as Kids Can Save the Animals!: 101 Easy Things to Do, this renamed edition has been expanded and updated, but its message hasn’t changed: we’re never too young to learn respect for all life. What is likely to engage young readers as much as the lighthearted tone that never talks down to them is how Ingrid incorporates a child’s interest in animals with their love of games, toys, riddles and trivia, encouraging imagination and creativity. Ideal for: ages 9-12.
The Animal Activist’s Handbook: Maximizing Our Positive Impact in Today’s World (2009) by Matt Ball and Bruce Friedrich. Bruce gave me a sneak preview of this book last year, and for a slim volume it certainly contains an impressive amount of great advice from two longtime activists. Matt (Vegan Outreach) and Bruce (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) know how to communicate and engage constructive dialog. Ideal for: pretty much anyone.
Building an Ark: 101 Solutions to Animal Suffering (2007) by Ethan Smith and Guy Dauncey. This book came out two months before mine, and I have to admit I haven’t read it entirely. I have browsed through it in the bookstore, however, and it looks impressive. The authors have divided their 101 suggestions into groups according to who is best qualified to implement them: businesses, organizations, individuals, schools, farmers, governments, etc. Ideal for: beginner activists.
Ethics Into Action: Henry Spira and the Animal Rights Movement (1998) by Peter Singer. OK, this book is 11 years old, but Henry Spira’s approach to animal activism is timeless. This is a truly inspirational look at what one person, motivated by compassion and armed with tenacity, can achieve for animals. Ideal for: everyone; a must-read.
The Lifelong Activist: How to Change the World without Losing Your Way (2006) by Hillary Rettig. Not so much a guide to activism as a guide to being an activist. Sections include Managing Your Mission (figuring out your authentic mission), Managing Your Time (building a schedule that allows you to realize that mission), Managing Your Fears (beating perfectionism, procrastination and blocks to success, so you can follow your schedule) and Managing Your Relationships (leveraging your strengths with those of others). Ideal for: activists wanting to make social justice a lifetime endeavor.
Making Kind Choices: Everyday Ways to Enhance Your Life Through Earth- and Animal-Friendly Living (2004) by Ingrid Newkirk. Avoiding animal products, buying Fair Trade and shade-grown coffee, donating an unwanted fur, investing in socially responsible companies and volunteering at an animal sanctuary are just a few of the subjects covered here. The book offers stories from a wide variety of voices, from engaged activists and international celebrities to everyday people just trying to make the world a better place. Ideal for: kids and families.
Meat Market: Animals, Ethics, and Money (2005) by Erik Marcus. Because animals used for food are by far the most exploited beings in the world, Erik advises readers to focus their attention and energy on animal agribusiness — and he offers a roadmap for dismantling this insidious enterprise. The final third of Meat Market consists of supplementary material, including eight activist essays and nine appendices covering the most fundamental arguments in favor of a plant-based diet. Ideal for: activists wanting to target the meat industry or just understand the abuses of agribiz.
Move the Message: Your Guide to Making A Difference and Changing the World (2004) by Josephine Bellaccomo. Though not specifically written for animal activists, there are still a number of techniques in Josephine’s book that can be applied to animal activism. Nice insights into the tactics opposition groups employ. Ideal for: anyone involved in social justice.
The PETA Practical Guide to Animal Rights: Simple Acts of Kindness to Help Animals in Trouble (2009) by Ingrid Newkirk. In her latest book, Ingrid covers everything from making cruelty-free products at home to the importance of adopting animals from shelters. It’s also a great resource on animal behavior. As Bill Maher points out in the foreword, who knew that macaws could play practical jokes on people or that an octopus can unscrew the lid from a jar? Ideal for: beginner activists.
Strategic Action for Animals: A Handbook on Strategic Movement Building, Organizing, and Activism for Animal Liberation (2008) by Melanie Joy. Drawing from diverse movements and sources, Melanie focuses on how advocates can maximize their effectiveness by thoughtfully considering and strategizing their activism. She uses a number of well-known nonprofits as examples. Ideal for: grassroots organizations.
Striking at the Roots: A Practical Guide to Animal Activism (2008) by Mark Hawthorne. Advice from more than 100 activists on how to effectively advocate on behalf of animals. Contents include leafleting, writing letters, tabling, protesting, corporate campaigning, social networks and more. Also includes a chapter on avoiding activist burnout. Ideal for: beginner and seasoned activists around the world.
Thanking the Monkey: Rethinking the Way We Treat Animals (2008) by Karen Dawn. Karen reaches her audience with a sense of humor and some help from celebrity friends, emphasizing that activism is not an all-or-nothing proposition. Her low-key approach makes Thanking the Monkey a nice introduction to animal rights. Ideal for: beginner activists; also makes a nice gift for people not familiar with the movement.
Bottom line: We owe it to the animals to be the most effective advocates we can. And with titles available for individual activists, those working or volunteering for grassroots organizations and even kids, there seems to be an activism book for everyone. Whether it’s through reading one of these books, attending an animal rights conference, taking a public-speaking class or getting involved with a local group, please commit yourself to improving your activist skills and knowledge.